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The Book Witch-Chapter 1

Chapter One

 

Tanya loved visiting her girlfriend at her bookstore, The Enchanted Page. Girlfriend. Yeah, that word has a wonderful ring to it. She’d almost resigned herself to the notion of living the rest of her days alone, or almost alone. She did have Tolstoy, her cat, to keep her company and her feet warm. Meeting Elle had turned her world upside down.

 

As unbelievable as it seemed, her girlfriend was more than a bookstore owner. She was a book magician with the power (Or was it ability?) to transport those most in need of adventure smack dab into the middle of a book. The chosen were literally participants in the story in a way that created an adventure never forgotten by the recipient of the magic. Tanya should know. She was one of the chosen. Unbelievable? Sure, yet Tanya had accepted magic as fact almost immediately, which had surprised Elle.

 

While Tanya had appreciated her adventure, there were certain ethical issues they were still working through regarding the absence of choice. How the book magicians and their male counterparts, book wizards, decided upon the chosen was an especially thorny subject. Being one of the chosen made Tanya feel like a pathetic loser. Book magicians decided on the chosen based on a belief that the nonmagicians needed an adventure to liven their dull existence. A book adventure to be specific. Yet, she had to admit the romantic adventure she experienced with Elle was exactly what she had needed in her life.

 

Saturday was usually busy at the bookstore, and Tanya suspected that made Elle happy. Elle didn’t need the money. She craved the excitement and the interaction with various people. She still believed her work as a book magician served a useful purpose. Lately, she’d shown signs of restlessness, and Tanya wondered when a new plan would burst from her mouth.

 

The Enchanted Page wasn’t a normal, run-of-the-mill bookstore. A few carefully selected books contained the magic necessary to send the chosen into a book adventure. As long as the nonmagicians were told their options, Tanya didn’t have a problem with what they did for a living. She’d somehow joined the ranks of the book magicians after discovering she possessed the skills. As Director of E-book Magic, she was bringing the book magicians and wizards into the twenty-first century.

 

Moses Lake was a nice enough place to settle, but Tanya suspected that digging in and enjoying the quiet life was not in Elle’s DNA. If Tanya wanted to show her love for her girlfriend, she knew she had to be willing to jump on the merry-go-round for the next adventure around the bend. Elle had mentioned buying a bookstore on Whidbey Island. At least the island was not clear across the country and still offered the soothing effects of water. If she were honest with herself, the notion of living in the gateway to the San Juan Islands, where all the orcas hung out, was extremely appealing. Tolstoy might raise a ruckus, but he’d adapt in time.

 

Tanya propped her chin on her hand, sure that she had a dopey expression on her face, and watched her beautiful lover weave her magic with a customer. The magic Elle was creating had nothing to do with the chants that could send someone into an adventure. Elle had a gift with people, and she was spinning her magic on a young girl who Tanya knew was an outcast in her school. Joining the Chess Club wasn’t exactly the preferred method of fitting in. Tanya had tried to talk with her while coaching the team but hadn’t managed to bring the awkward girl out of her shell. That was a first for Tanya. Normally she had the magic touch with socially awkward teens, because she could relate.

 

“You know, in ten years, all those cheerleaders and football players will fade from any notoriety they now possess. Your intellectual prowess as a chess player will provide you with the needed skills to anticipate future challenges in life. Intelligence eats popularity for lunch and spits that shallow noun out as something unworthy of digestion,” Elle said to the young girl.

 

“Really, Miss Elle?”

 

“Absolutely.”

 

When a frown began to mar Elle’s beautiful face, Tanya followed her gaze to a striking woman with flowing red hair and piercing emerald eyes who glided into The Enchanted Page. She wore a smirk on her face that seemed just shy of arrogance. Something about her impish smile told Tanya that perhaps it was all a ruse. Maybe the beautiful woman hid her real emotions so far inside that even she wouldn’t know where to look for them. Tanya was curious about who she could be.

 

She strode to Tanya with what appeared as manufactured confidence. “You are significantly more attractive than the rumors,” the stranger blurted out.

 

“Pardon me?” Tanya tilted her head.

 

“You are the famed book addict, the nonmag recently promoted to Director of E-book Magic. Are you not?”

 

Tanya’s mouth hung open. She wasn’t comfortable with the moniker, “famed book addict.” She had bound that scrotumface, the former Grand Wizard, to the book he’d tried to trap her in. Apparently, the prophecy told of a nonmagician who would perform an incantation in a similar fashion to how Niviane trapped Merlin in the stone chamber. The Grand Council of Magicians had convinced themselves Tanya was this person.

 

Elle slammed down the book she was holding onto the counter. The chess player jumped and scurried from the store. “Imara,” Elle said through gritted teeth. “Where’s your broom?”

 

“Oooh, temper, temper, Elle. I was just saying hello to your lovely…uh what is she exactly? Not your wife, so no need to get too possessive.” Imara cackled.

 

“Why don’t you take your inferior spells someplace else? Oh, by the way, have you found any new warts in delicate places? I’ve heard vaginal warts are a bitch and so common to your kind.”

 

Imara narrowed her eyes. “You know that is a complete falsehood. Book witches have never suffered from warts of any kind, you loud-mouthed, inarticulate book apprentice. You never could manage to refine the art of truly bringing a book to life like we do.”

 

“Reckless, that’s what you are. Completely devoid of any ethics whatsoever. Characters in books are supposed to stay put.” Spittle flew from Elle’s mouth.

 

Tanya had never seen her girlfriend so angry before—not even when their very lives were at risk when Gordon had set them up to perish inside the book’s adventure.

 

“Reckless? Oh, that’s rich. I’m not the one who sends their chosen into dangerous adventures and has to have her mother bail her ass out.” Imara’s beautiful face transformed into a snarl.

 

Tanya thought she heard an audible pop and turned to her left as Bea materialized inside the store. “Enough,” Bea yelled. “You’re interrupting my afternoon delight with your negative energy. Your father was about to rock my world, then I felt your infantile anger rear its ugly head. Imara, why do you always have to needle Elle?”

 

“Ew, Mother, I did not need to hear that,” Elle groused.

 

“Hiya, Mom. Give me a hug.”

 

Bea crossed the small space and accepted the hug from the stunning woman.

 

Tanya looked from Bea to Elle to Imara. “Who are you?”

 

Imara bowed. “Imara the good book witch at your service. Elle and I go way back. She used to be a lot more fun than she is now.”

 

Elle crossed her arms over her chest. “That was before I knew what a total bitch you are.”

 

“Aw come on. You’re not still sore about Misty, are you? Trust me, she wasn’t that good. I did you a favor by stealing her away. Honestly, she was a total bore. Now look how much better you’ve done. Unless…oh, I get it. You’re afraid I’ll steal this delectable creature away from you.”

 

“As if.” Elle hmphed loudly.

 

Tanya closed the distance between her and Elle and kissed Elle’s cheek. “No one could ever steal me away from you.”

 

Elle smirked. “What’s your skanky ass doing here anyway?”

 

Imara held out her hand. “Truce. I promise I won’t make a move on your beautiful book addict if you help me out. We used to be a good team…”

 

“Ha. Can’t handle it on your own, huh?”

 

“This one is special. Besides, I heard you were buying the bookstore on Whidbey. She lives in Coupeville, so I thought we could team up. She meets both our criteria. Who knows, she could be as special as your book addict here.”

 

“Hey, this book addict has a name.” Tanya’s irritation was growing.

 

“Sorry. It’s Tanya, right?” Imara asked.

 

 

Tanya hated when the book magicians acted like she wasn’t there and talked about her as if she were a sofa. It seemed as though this book witch was perpetuating that subtle discrimination. Elle, Bea, and Clara didn’t treat her like a second-class citizen, but sometimes the others did. Tanya respected Oren, a powerful wizard on the Magicians’ Council, but even he fell into old habits. Fay, the current Grand Magician, would remind her lover not to be a snob and to recognize Tanya’s talents. With a woman leading the council, the men no longer called all the shots, but they were still a long way from the antiquated views that lingered from the old wizards.

 

Fay was a powerful book magician who that same council had once banished after Gordon set her up. She’d returned at the right moment to help them catch Gordon red-handed in his evil plan to discredit all female magicians and secure control for the wizards. Oren had played a pivotal role in helping Elle and Tanya permanently bind that scrotumface to a very nasty place in the book. Poetic justice. Gordon’s plan had backfired, and they’d left the slimy bastard in a dangerous book. She hoped he’d spend the rest of his living days in terror. He’d tried to do the exact same thing to Elle, with Tanya as collateral damage. Well, turnaround was fair play.

 

Tanya admired Fay, but change was hard and slow. Too slow for Tanya’s liking. The old guard continued to give her fits. Only Sidell, Oren, and Brendan were on her side. Sidell’s surprising turnabout was enough for a majority, but the old-timer was getting up there in years. Tanya feared Sidell would leave the council before young Brendan earned the esteem and ear of his senior colleagues. Tanya was still a bit surprised the council had voted a woman as their Grand Magician and doubly astounded when they asked a nonmagician to work with them on expanding the magic beyond paperbacks.

 

Hadn’t Tanya brought the book magicians into the twenty-first century as Director of E-book Magic? Tanya hmphed to herself. She had to give this arrogant, little book witch a lesson or two in decorum.

 

“Yes, my name is Tanya, and if you ever refer to me as a nonmag again, I’ll be providing you a lesson in etiquette and respect.”

 

“Ooh, she is a feisty one.” Imara winked at Elle. “I’ll bet she’s a hellcat in bed.”

 

Tanya poked her finger at Imara. “You aren’t listening, are you? Typical snobby magician—”

 

“I am not a lowly book magician. I am a book witch.” Imara puffed out her chest. Tanya waited for her to stick her nose to the sky, feigning an air of superiority.

 

“Why you—” Elle took a step in Imara’s direction.

 

“I said stop it, or I’ll send both of you into a book of my choosing, like I used to when you were little,” Bea exclaimed.

 

Imara shuddered. “Oh God, not that. You always picked the most mundane books. We’d nearly die from boredom. Sorry Bea, but book magicians and book witches are not the same. Haven’t you taught this book addict that?”

 

Tanya threw her hands in the air. “I give up. Maybe someday you’ll learn my name.”

 

Bea sighed. “Our kind hasn’t really mixed much with yours lately. That ridiculous feud is still going strong.”

 

“What feud?” Tanya asked.

 

“Book magicians and book witches often select the same individuals to bless with their magic and have different perspectives regarding which is more beneficial to the chosen. I largely blame the wizards and warlocks. They are the ones who began beating their chests, trying to prove who was better. Imara, frankly, I’m surprised you’ve jumped onto the bandwagon,” Bea answered.

 

Imara looked genuinely regretful. “I’m sorry. You know, deep down, I don’t feel that way. I can’t understand what’s come over me lately. I’ve missed you. I’ve even missed Elle. Although, she is a bigger pain in my ass than when you used to send us to Boringville. Or worse, those disapproving incantations. You know, the ones where you inserted overwhelming feelings of guilt into us after whatever half-baked antic we'd thought up.”

 

“Do all witches exaggerate so much?” Elle asked. “They weren’t that bad. You’re making her sound like some crazed parent.”

 

“I know. I was just kidding, but I do have permanent scars from her disappointment chants. They were a far greater punishment and stuck with me a lot longer than when she sent us into those books.”

 

“Hmm…good to know something stuck. Do you really want Elle’s assistance with a special case? Maybe if the two of you work together this silly war between magicians and witches will end. I miss those spectacular shindigs the book witches threw. I know you all didn’t name them that…”

 

“It’s okay, Bea, I called the Witchfests and Paganicons shindigs but never within earshot of another book witch. I would have been on the receiving end of a very nasty spell if I had.”

 

“Right, right. It’s been so long. I forgot,” Bea answered.

 

Pop

 

Tanya turned her head. “Clara!”

 

“I thought I felt a disturbance in the air.” Clara grinned.

 

“Aunt Clara, you old cougar. How ya been? Miss me?” Imara stepped into Clara’s open arms and accepted a hug.

 

“I did miss you. You and Elle always stir things up and make everything a bit more interesting.”

 

“I’m trying to entice Elle to help me out.”

 

“Sounds fascinating. Can I come along?”

 

“Sure, the more the merrier. We can even take the little book addict with us.” A sly smile appeared on Imara’s lips.

 

Something about the way Imara had mentioned Tanya as an afterthought and the expression on her face seemed disingenuous. It appeared as though Imara was playing a role or acting for their benefit. Tanya didn’t get a chance to explore her gut reaction, because Elle cut into the conversation in her defense.

 

“Hey, don’t underestimate Tanya. She may not have been born a book magician, but she has more power and knowledge than most of the stuffy, old wizards. It was her chant that sent Gordon packing.”

 

Imara raised her eyebrow and shot Tanya an appraising look. “Wow, I thought that was simply hyperbole.” Imara scooted over and slung her arm over Tanya’s shoulder. “How about it, book addict. Are you ready for a real adventure?”

 

“Stay the fuck away,” Elle grounded out.

 

“Ooh, touchy. Does she have you on a short leash, hon?” Imara grinned.

 

“I’m warning you, Imara. Tanya is not interested in participating in any of your hairbrained ideas.”

 

That was it. Tanya loved Elle, but this overprotective, jealous streak that caused Elle to make all kinds of assumptions about what Tanya did and did not want to get involved in was pissing her off. “Tanya can speak for herself. Thank you very much.” Her voice was dangerously low and had a sharp edge that she rarely used, especially with Elle.

 

Elle deflated. “I’m sorry.”

 

“Give us a minute, will you?” Tanya directed her question to Imara, then pulled Elle up the stairs to the loft apartment they often stayed at when they weren’t spending time at Tanya’s condo.

 

 

Tanya tugged on Elle’s sleeve and pulled her down on the love seat. She picked up the remote to turn on the electric fireplace. The fake fire didn’t put out a lot of heat, because it was mostly for show, but both of them thought it was the next best thing to having a real fireplace. A relaxing space was the idea. “What’s going on? Where did my confident, adventuresome book magician go? I’ve never seen you act like that.”

 

Elle absently moved her thumb back and forth over Tanya’s hand. Tanya recognized Elle’s gesture as a way to further calm herself. “I’m sure you can tell. Imara and I have history. We were nearly inseparable when we were younger. After her mother basically abandoned her, Mom sort of adopted Imara. Aunt Clara too. We, uh, had similar proclivities… so would go after the same girls. It became competitive. She always won. I was constantly under her shadow. I didn’t mind at the time. Being in her presence was like a drug.

 

“Then I met Misty… First loves are hard. I told Imara Misty was important to me. I asked her not to turn on the charm and give us a chance. I suppose she couldn’t help herself. Everyone loves that rogue cockiness she’s had since she turned thirteen. Misty wasn’t immune. My first heartbreak.”

 

“Well, I find her brash and irritating. You don’t have to worry about me falling for her nonexistent charms. I’m in love with you. Nothing, not even a witch’s spell, has a chance at breaking that love.” Tanya brought her lips to Elle’s, sealing her declaration.

 

“You want to help her, don’t you?” Elle quirked her eyebrow.

 

Tanya smiled. “It has gotten a little rote around here lately. I’m not exactly involved in the more interesting aspects of book magic.”

 

“I thought you’d had a lifetime of excitement with just one adventure.”

 

“Apparently, I’m another kind of addict. Who knew, huh? I got a small taste of adventure, and now I’m craving more.”

 

“Book witches still haven’t resolved the ethics around bringing characters to life. The issues become especially gnarly when a character falls for a nonmag—oops, I mean chant free.”

 

Tanya grimaced. “Okay, I officially hate the replacement word for those of us who don’t possess your special skills. Chantfree really is lame, isn’t it?”

 

Elle nodded. “You know, you can’t really be classified as a nonmag anymore because of how you took care of that donkeyhole, Gordon. I know you hate the term nonmag, but hon, I have no idea what else to call the others not like us. Maybe we can borrow from those Harry Potter books, even though they got everything wrong about magicians.”

 

Tanya groaned. “I loved those books, but no, just no.”

 

“How about humbles? That has pleasant connotations,” Elle suggested.

 

Tanya stroked her chin. “How about we don’t use labels at all?”

 

“Both of our worlds immerse themselves in labels. It’s the way we organize things.”

 

“It’s also lazy and chock full of ways to look at one class of individuals differently—kind of like book magicians and book witches. The divide seems like it’s based on your differences, rather than on finding common ground. I suspect both sides think the other is less valuable, less relevant, less important, less ethical… Shall I go on?” Tanya quirked her eyebrow.

 

“You are far too intelligent for my own good. I’ll never win an argument with you. I suppose Imara has her positive attributes. I’ll not ever admit that to her, but she was fun to hang out with. Imara did manage to increase the excitement in my life, even when she got us in hot water with Mom. The one area both book magicians and book witches agree on is bringing adventure and self-worth into the lives of the chosen.”

 

“Let’s do it then. We can buy the bookstore on Whidbey. It’ll be a first, major step toward commitment and eventually marriage. A combination store and cozy loft for us to live in. I’ve always wanted to live on an island. Of course, Hawaii was my first choice, but as long as I’m with you, any island in the Pacific Northwest will do fine.” Tanya laid her head on Elle’s shoulder.

 

“Are you going to sell your condo? What about the store here in Moses Lake? This place has grown on me and not because you’re here.”

 

“Maybe we can keep both. We can start a bookstore franchise,” Tanya joked.

 

“I doubt bookstores have the same appeal as fast food restaurants or hoity-toity coffee shops.”

 

“Who can ever predict what the masses will want? For God’s sake, those little twirly things are selling like hotcakes.” Tanya’s head popped up from Elle’s shoulder.

 

Elle laughed. “Do you mean the fidget spinner?”

 

“Yeah. I mean who thought that up? It’s almost as bad as the pet rock.”

 

“Aunt Clara loves hers. She says it calms her.”

 

“There must be a whole group of magicians devoted to making us regular folk fall in love with useless gadgets. I’ll bet they’re all laughing their asses off about it. They’re probably called the fad magicians.”

 

“There isn’t, I swear. Besides, I thought we’d already determined you’re anything but regular.”

 

Tanya ignored the comment alluding to how she was special. “I’ve often wondered what constitutes beauty. Are there beauty magicians who decide what is appealing? Same thing. I don’t like the idea of always buying into what everyone else thinks is beautiful, relevant, worthy…oh, you know what I mean.”

 

Elle pulled Tanya into her arms and soundly kissed her. “Mmm, I love it when you get all feisty like that. Don’t ever change.”

 

The clip-clop of shoes registered on the stairs, and two short raps on the wall announced Imara. “Hey you lovebirds. I think I’ve aged ten years waiting for you to finish having make up sex. Can we please move on to devising a plan to help a very deserving chosen one?”

 

“Ten more minutes,” Elle answered and grinned at Tanya. “So…considering Imara thinks we’re already having sex, maybe we should sneak in a quickie?”

 

“Nope. If we’re going to have make up sex, I want the full-meal deal. Imara, if you’re still there, we need another forty-five minutes. Minimum. Try catching up with Bea and Clara. I’m sure y’all have plenty to talk about.”

 

“I love how your mind works.” Elle didn’t waste any time leading Tanya to the bedroom and beginning her slow exploration.

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